TOKYO: Former Nissan Motor Co. president Carlos Ghosn, facing trial in Japan on financial charges, replaced his legal team and brought in a lawyer known for high-profile cases to lead his defense.
The move follows a series of legal disappointments for Mr. Ghosn, who has been in a Tokyo jail for nearly three months and has rejected his requests for bail.
In a statement e-mailed Wednesday, Mr. Ghosn said his decision to shake his legal team was part of his preparation for the trial.
"I hope to defend myself vigorously, and this represents the beginning of the process not only of establishing my innocence but also of clarifying the circumstances that led to my unjust detention," Mr. Ghosn said in the statement.
Mr. Ghosn's legal team will have his first pre-trial hearing with the judge who will preside over the trial.
Former prosecutor Motonari Otsuru had led Mr. Ghosn's defense shortly after his arrest on November 19. Mr. Otsuru's office said Wednesday that Mr. Otsuru and a colleague from the same office were giving up the case.
Mr. Otsuru will be replaced by veteran lawyer Junichiro Hironaka. Nicknamed "the razor", Mr. Hironaka has won some of Japan's most famous acquittals.
Rodrigo Reyes Marin / Zuma Press
Tokyo prosecutors have accused Mr. Ghosn of not reporting his compensation in eight years of Nissan's financial statements and of having Nissan pay the company of a friend from Saudi Arabia who helped him with a personal financial problem.
Mr. Ghosn has said he is innocent of the charges. He says he kept a record in Nissan of how much he thought it was worth, but he describes it as a hypothetical calculation that did not force Nissan to pay him anything more than his publicly reported compensation. He says that Nissan received valuable services from the Saudi company and that he paid them properly.
In interviews with Japanese and French media, he blamed his arrest and the charges against him for "a plot and a betrayal."
In his only public appearance while defending Mr. Ghosn, Mr. Otsuru told a news conference on January 8 that he thought it would take at least six months for the trial to begin. He said that it was often difficult in Japan's legal system to get defendants released on bail long before the trial.
While Mr. Otsuru harshly criticized some aspects of the prosecutors' case, he also showed some sympathy for the interrogation tactics of his former colleagues. He said that it was acceptable for Mr. Ghosn to sign a Japanese document that he could not read while the content was verbally explained in English, rejecting criticism of the practice by Mr. Ghosn's son.
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